Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Today's notion

A Tulpa -like monster called "The living cliché" -- it can't be killed and although it has infinite powers, they're limited and guided by its current cliché form. (It has the weaknesses of its cliché form, too.)

Perhaps it starts as a person who gets a wishing ring and who wants to be a, I dunno, vampire. The ring turns the host into one until the ring is removed. 

You can't store the ring: it melts into mist if it isn't worn for a week and it re-forms near someone with a hunger for a different (clichéd) form. 

Stopping it forever is left as an exercise for the players. 

Think of it as an excuse to run something classic as an opponent: vampires, kaiju, creatures from the black lagoon, pirates, gangsters, dragons...

Friday, September 2, 2016

Hey. Nice to see you.

I am back after an extended period of unemployment and mental problems. I have tons of apologies to make to people because I have missed deadlines, but in the meantime, you can use this, which is the open source parts of the The Basics chapter of the ICONS Assembled  rulebook. It is formatted for your phone, rather than anything else, and has a set of characters put into it, so that players can take the PDF and get started with one of the characters.

I think I've observed most of the legalities but I haven't asked Steve Kenson for his permission. If he asks me to, I will of course take this down.

ICONS OGL: The Basics (for your phone)

Monday, April 11, 2016

ICONS Template: Gadgeteer


If you want to be good at building gadgets, well, here's a starting point.


Gadgeteer (40 point template)
Science, Technology (+2) Expert
Force Field [Device]4
Flight [Device]3


Clearly this guy is still on the human side of things; you could spend your points on a higher intellect or on a higher Gadgets skill, or both; you could have the Force Field and Flight as Masteries of the Gadget power and then both could be at a higher level (but you're screwed if you lose the utility belt).

Sunday, April 10, 2016

ICONS Template: Your basic blaster


There are so many variations on this. I figured the very basic character type is someone organized around a theme, so that often gets called an elemental controller or an energy controller. On the other hand, you could easily say that T'A'Shrin, the humanoid fox stranded on earth (character of a friend of mine) was a basic blaster whenever she had her pistol.


Blaster (40 point template)
Power (whatever that blast is) Expert (+2)
Force Field4


Really, this is a versatile character type. I probably haven't narrowed down enough. This one could have lots of different changes rung on it, but as is, it's a good middle-of-the-road character. The character is good with the blaster and dextrous--not smart, but I haven't been concentrating on Intellect for any of these.

You could move that Specialty into Coordination directly.

A trick shooter: The Blast is actually a gun of some kind; swap out Flight for Super-Speed (some kind of vehicle), and change the Force Field to Damage Resistance.

An energy controller might look like this:

Blaster (Energy Controller Variant) (40 point template)
Energy Control (Blast)5
Extra: Reflection (your kind of energy)5
Extra: Flight5
Regeneration (Limit: Source)5

(Remember that a Limit gives you the option of raising the level of the power, essentially getting two ranks. That's what I've used here.)

Friday, April 8, 2016

ICONS Template: Psychic


This one turned out to be very bare bones, but I wanted to get all three powers in there, and that meant skimping on everything else....


Psychic (40 point template)
Psychiatry Expert (+2)
Extra: Force Field5
Super senses (mental awareness)1


You have a different sort of character if the Telepathy isn't there, one more like an energy controller, but that gives you some extra points you can put into flight or another extra on the Telekinesis.

The Force Field or Telekinesis might be a stunt...instead, the character has something like Mental Blast. That's a character who is a bit more of a cannon than a psychic, but you could do it. Heck, Force Field doesn't even have to be an Extra...then it could have a different value than 5.

The extra 5 points could go toward Mental Resistance.

Traditional "helper" (NPC) psychics tend to have an Unreliable or Burnout limitation on their powers.

It might be fun for your GM if you have a Quality like "Blackouts while controlled by mentalists and extradimensional gods". (Or maybe not.)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

ICONS Template: Speedster


This was actually the first one I did, after watching the Supergirl-Flash crossover on TV.


Speedster (40 point template)
Power [Super speed stunts]
Extra: Surface movement8


This character runs at over Mach 1 (Mach 1 is Super-speed 7). If you want the Defensive extra (and I can see how that particular extra would be useful), you can spend all your points on it and drop Super-speed to 7. The power at 7 and two extras make 21, which is twice the power at 8 and 5 extra points.

Or swap Extras, and leave Surface Movement as a stunt.

Or you can drop Coordination to 3 ("That Ballistic Lad, such a klutz!") and drop the Specialty; then you have 8 extra points.

Any of the other powers that you might stunt you can throw in with your extra points. Maybe you have Regeneration or Phasing (or both at rank 2).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ICONS template: Crimefighter


You're saying you'd rather play somebody who has trained his or her body to physical perfection and has an array of gadgets to help? Got you covered.

For other instructions, see

Crimefighter (40 point template)
Athletics Expert (+2), Investigation (+1), Martial Arts Expert (+2), Stealth (+1)
Swinging (grappling gun) 4
Choose either Blast (thrown weapon or grenade) or Strike 4
Extra: Burst (grenade, ricochet, fancy maneuver) Limit: Burnout (ran out or weapon broke)


You can also use this for your basic weapons expert: your incredible marksman (markswoman?) or your person who throws things. In that case, you might want to swap Prowess and Coordination, and maybe change Martial Arts Expert to Weapons [expertise] Expert. Or you could spend your extra points on that.

If you are doing a straight up martial artist, I'd bump up the Prowess by one (leave Martial Arts at Expert because there always should be a tougher fight, even if it's the head of the martial art) and get rid of Investigation. The Swinging goes away, and the justification for the powers becomes chi control.

Remember to get an Advantage from the Athletics Expert (justification: Acrobatics) for a bonus to add to defense. This person is hard to hit.

Extra points could bump up Coordination or Strength, or provide some small mutant power such as Regeneration or the ability to make anything he throws explode.

Second Addendum

As an example, this would be a potential Crime Fighting Archer:

Crime Fighting Archer (40 point template)
Athletics Expert (+2), Weapons [Bows] Master (+3), Stealth (+1)
Super speed (motorcycle) 4
Blast (basic arrow) 4
Extra: Gadgets (trick arrows) Limit: Burnout (ran out of arrows or bow/bowstring broke)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ICONS Template: Battlesuit


Battlesuits in the comics have a bazillion powers; ICONS doesn't.  But here's a template anyway. Again, you get to write your own qualities. See

Battlesuit (40 point template)
None, at this point.
Damage Resistance7
Extra: Blast (missiles) Limit: Max only7
Super senses (radar, radio)2


What can you do with a battlesuit? Really, the question should be, what can't you do with a battlesuit?

With only five extra points to spend, it's tough to put an extra on the Damage Resistance that provides another attack power, but if you lower Flight to 4, you could do it.

You could change the Super senses to Super sense 1 (radar) and Extra: Telepathy Extra: Link Limit Extra Only to represent an encrypted radio frequency. (I'd handwave the range and the fact that anyone with the correct encryption could listen in; that's a nice source of Trouble right there.)

What's an odder form of Battlesuit? What about the plant controller who grows bark and gets as strong as a tree; the Blast is an Affliction or Paralysis instead (pollen or sap).

Or instead of Damage Resistance, the story is that it's a force field. Your gadget guy is functionally a battlesuit but he looks totally different because he's festooned with devices.

Or something straight-up magical: this isn't a battlesuit per se, this is a statue animated by magical sympathy with someone. Like Astral Projection, the host body is still vulnerable somewhere, which might be a useful source of Trouble.

Monday, April 4, 2016

ICONS Template: Brick


Here's a brick template in ICONS.  Again, you get to write your own qualities. See

Brick (40 point template)
Damage Resistance8


Obviously, this is a starting point, a kind of a class. What else could you do with it?

Well, Specialties, obviously. Or bump up any of the abilities.

If you were looking for additional powers, maybe remove the Leaping and buy a Burst extra for Strength. (I don't think the rules say you can buy an Extra for Strength, but it doesn't say you can't.) Some kind of Life Support for the more outre damage sources, or a different kind of Resistance.

You could make it an exoskeleton character; replace the Leaping with Flight. You probably want to move a point or two from Willpower to Awareness. Add an Aura to represent electrifying the armor.

An interesting possibility I just thought of is to spend the 5 points on Extra: Affects Phased for Strength. Yes, it's lower than the Strength but the idea is that the character is at a reduced effectiveness to affect these phased items. (Get your GM's permission before you do this.)

Instead of being Strength 8, the character might have Density Increase or Alternate Form (some kinds of Alternate Form offer increased Strength).  It could be level 5, or you could take a bit from Damage Resistance or Leaping and make it level 8.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Thoughts on a conversion: Baron Blade


My CPAP machine is broken, and while I wait for the repairs I am in kind of a daze. My default activity is inactivity, and I play a lot of Sentinels of the Multiverse on my iPad.

I'm not good at it, you understand, and I don't own any expansions or anything. I just play it a lot.

I know that Cam Banks is working on an RPG version of the game, and I'm sure it will be wonderful. But I started wondering again how you'd do conversions of the characters. I'll use ICONS for this example.

The mechanics are very different between the two games. In the card game, you never know which of your powers is going to show up. You have the holding area of your hand, but you can't always guarantee that a particular power is going to show up. I have lost games because a power or the card that lets me get the power didn't show up.

So a straight translation isn't going to work. Whatever power is written on the character card, something equivalent should be the character's "power" but the rest, well, it's a suite of options. Stunts in ICONS seem to be a way of addressing that.

That means that we really have to think about what makes each character thematically different. Again, I'm not sure that I'm the best person for it, so I'm glad I'm not doing this for money. Instead, I'm trying to shoehorn that character concept into an existing game framework (which is not what Cam and his crew are doing).

That out of the way, let's think about villains. There are four villains, and you play against one of them. For those who don't play the game, they are:

  • Baron Blade A mad scientist who has minions but not a huge number of them. Mostly he's about the gadgets and the time limit. You have to put down Blade before a certain amount of time passes. 
  • Citizen Dawn Mutant leader with lots of "citizens" whose powers often build on each other. In certain forms, Dawn is nigh indestructible, and you have to recognize that as part of your strategy to defeat her.
  • Grand Marshall Voss The space alien overlord with an armada. Lots of supporting cast who will whittle you down, and certain cards make it seem like an inexhaustible supply.
  • Omnitron The robot factory gone mad. The trick there is that any other villain can leave mooks standing, but any minion or gadget is a potential Omnitron replacement.
Today I was thinking about Baron Blade. His other trick is that you think you've defeated him when he shows up at 3/4 hit points and then you have to do it all over again. That was what I was thinking about at first.

There are a few ways to simulate that kind of behaviour relatively directly.

  1. Maybe it's a quality: "Comeback Kid" or "Never say die." You give the players a Determination point when it happens (having explained to them at the beginning of the session that it will happen). 
  2. He has some kind of uncontrolled Alter Ego power. When his stamina goes to zero, it automatically triggers and the new armored Baron Blade shows up. That's not great, because I don't see that other than the hit points, the new Baron Blade doesn't seem much different. 
  3. Maybe he has a huge Healing power, self only, with a Burnout limitation. (That can also simulate the self-repair nanites that he has.) We have to trigger this behaviour when he should be knocked out.
  4. You model it as Probability Control level 1. It happens once, the villain gets a refresh, and off you go.
Because he also has those nanites, let's claim it's a big healing power with a burnout. If he foregoes his other actions in a turn, he has a big healing ability. We'll try Healing 8, Limit: Self Only, Limit: Burnout. If we need to, we can make it Healing 10; we'll see what his abilities look like.

His other cards/powers reduce damage on him, attack other people (reflection or maybe a ranged aura), or get rid of resources by removing equipment cards. The devices that do hurt players are things like, oh, remote turrets or toxic chemicals. The thing is that they affect everyone, which is easy to do in a card game but tougher in a roleplaying setting.

The other thing is that nobody misses in the card game, but they could well miss in an RPG. (In the card game, missing is modeled as doing reduced damage, such as Wraith's stealth.)

So let's make up some abilities:

  • Prowess: 3 (He's not a big hand-to-hand combatant)
  • Coordination: 6 (But really, we'll be using Burst a lot)
  • Strength: 4 (Unless we want a powered exoskeleton, but that feels like something he gets later)
  • Intellect: 7 (We're claiming he's insanely smart)
  • Awareness: 4 
  • Willpower: 6 (He needs the stamina points from somewhere)
That would give him a Stamina of 10. That's...not a lot. He'll need something else if he really is meant to be a significant threat. The kind of threat that lasts four heroes wailing (waling? Whaling?) on him.

 We can add energy drain as the aura and have him suck vril out of anyone who attacks him. (Nice idea; save it for my own use.)

Specialties are of course Technology and Science; make him +3 with both.

We want him as a character to last for a while. That means either some form of resistance or force field, regeneration or healing, or buttloads of Stamina. "Buttloads of Stamina" is hard to do in this system; there's no separate way to buy up Stamina, though I suppose you could do it as a Quality. The energy drain aura is not a bad idea, but it has to be ranged. (Okay, the first time your players meet him, it doesn't have to be. But it's an upgrade that he should invent.)

Let's give him a light force field rather than messing around with things like ranged energy drain auras. This is force field 4: enough to stop most small arms fire.

(Added in editing:)

Most of the powers will be stunts.

Gadgets sounds appropriate. We're going to leave the Intellect test in, as an incentive to the GM to make the level of the powers appropriate to the player characters. Known devices get a mastery, so that he can do them easily. (Devices such as a device to draw the moon near are plot devices.)

Force Field 4
Gadgets 8 Extra: Burst Masteries: Life Support 4; Blast (Remote Turret: autofire represented by the Burst extra) 5; Aura 3 (that darned backlash field)

I feel like for RPG play there should be some kind of movement power. Let's say that he's got a small amount of movement... We'll say that he's got a rocket pack hidden somewhere: Flight 4, Limit: Temporary

Oh, and when he switches into his incredible armor because he's really ticked (the Healing?), he's also got Masteries in Force Field Ability Increase 8 (Limit: Source); Strength Ability Increase 8 (Limit: Source). The extra strength gives him some reasonable leaping, too.

And for qualities... Maybe these:

Charming inventor or mad scientist (the charming part gets him minions galore: if he wants another Blade Battalion, he invokes the quality)
Always have gadgets in reserve
Archfoe of (player character, rather than Legacy)